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THE SITUATION ROOM
Bitter Chaos Erupts in Egypt; Gunfire, Explosions in Tahrir Square; White House Urges Change for Egyptian People; Social Media Play Key Role in Unrest
Aired February 2, 2011 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: We're following all the breaking news. Look at this -- bitter pandemonium erupting in Egypt. Hundreds are injured and now three are dead, as rival protesters, some riding horses and camels, battle each with clubs, rocks, anything else they can find. And fire balls are exploding in the skies over Cairo right now, the result of Molotov cocktails being launched by those supporting the embattled Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak.
And even our own CNN reporters have been unable to escape the chaos. CNN's Hala Gorani says she was a little bit fearful after being directly threatened by one protester. And you're about to hear what happened when our own Anderson Cooper was attacked on the streets of Cairo.
Let's go first to CNN's Ivan Watson.
He's joining us from Cairo right now -- set the scene for us, Ivan.
What are you seeing, what are you hearing right now, because this has been a day of dramatic violence and change in Egypt?
IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Absolutely. And -- and the most amazing thing now is, Wolf, it's about midnight local time and it seems that the scene of the most dramatic fighting, which has been over at the south end of the square, seems to have diminished. The hundreds and hundreds of opposition demonstrators that were facing off right next to the Egyptian Museum against pro-regime fighters have spread out a bit or they have succeeded in pushing back some of the pro-regime people to beyond my line of sight, which shows that they have actually gained ground over hours of fighting.
There are thousands of people here in Tahrir Square, Wolf, many of them walking around with bandaged heads, wearing slings. There have been a lot of injuries during this fierce day of violence.
We've fed some video that you may be able to roll showing images of doctors, medics in white lab coats treating people in the middle of the street under the lights of a monument. Some of the crowd leaving some of their prisoners. They've been capturing pro-regime combatants, leading them away and beating them viciously as they're taken away. And just to give you a scene of this dramatic battle that's been taking place here, really, since the early afternoon here -- and it's midnight local time -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Are you there at Tahrir Square, Liberation Square, right now, Ivan?
Are you in the middle of all of this?
WATSON: Wolf, I'm holed up in a building in the middle of Tahrir Square, behind the barricades in opposition-controlled territory. This is where we've been working throughout days of and nights of peaceful protests. I'm watching right in front of me right now four men carrying a wounded unconscious man in the direction of where -- where the medics are operating. And literally underneath the balcony I'm standing on, medics are stitching wounded people up on the sidewalk, Wolf, just to give you a sense of the drama that we've been witnessing for hours here.
BLITZER: Ivan, hold on for a moment.
Anderson Cooper is on the phone in Cairo for us, as well -- Anderson, I know you're OK, your crew is OK. But it got very ugly early in the day for you and, indeed, for everyone else watching what's going on.
Tell our viewers who may just be tuning in what happened.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360" (via telephone): Well, Wolf, let me do that in a second.
I've just got to tell you the scene I am witnessing right now. On -- the vantage point I have is just -- is a little bit farther on from where Ivan Watson can see. In front of the Egyptian Museum right now, an extraordinary scene is -- is unfolding right before our eyes. The anti-Mubarak protesters, after having -- after battling back and forth all day long in front of the Egyptian Museum, at this late hour, they now occupy the entire area in front of the Egyptian Museum. They have set up a phalanx of metal, what looks like barricades, in front of the north end of the Egyptian Museum. And they have lit several vehicles on fire.
So there is a huge plume of thick, black smoke now rising into the air above Cairo, as two or three vehicles are completely engulfed in flames and the pro-Mubarak protesters, though a few are still throwing Molokov -- Molotov cocktails at the anti-Mubarak protesters, it appears as if the back of the pro-Mubarak protesters, in this area at least, the back has been broken.
The large numbers -- the thousands of pro-Mubarak protesters who we've seen over the last 11 hours or so, those numbers have dwindled down dramatically. We've seen a number of them run away. And now you just have a smaller, hard core group. It looks to be maybe 500, 600 who are still there. But they have been pushed back to an area underneath the highway overpass. So this, for the anti-Mubarak protesters in this side of the square -- and I can't see what's happening in other parts of the square -- but -- but they must consider this a victory, because not only have they held onto the square, but they have regained this entire several block area all in front of the Egyptian Museum. And they seem to be in a much better position than they were earlier in the day -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Is there any visible sign of police or the military?
What are they doing, if anything?
COOPER: Well, there's no police -- uniformed police that we can see. Anti-Mubarak protesters claim that they have found undercover police, secret police within the pro-Mubarak crowd. I -- I can't verify that independently. And that's something the Egyptian government firmly denies.
But can I tell you that the Egyptian military has -- has stood by all day and done very, very little. As you know, the Egyptian military have had control over this square from the -- on the periphery of this square for days now. They've have had tanks and armored personnel careers. They've been controlling access to the square when they wanted to. They've been checking IDs, patting people down when they wanted to. That's in previous days, when there was anti-Mubarak protesters.
I can tell you, on this day, when the pro-Mubarak protesters began to appear this morning, they weren't checked at all. They were allowed to gather freely unchecked. Clearly, people were bringing weapons with them, bringing Molotov cocktails, which we later saw in -- oh, some shots. I'm sorry, I've just got to duck down. Some shots have just been fired, very loud shots. We're not sure exactly where the location of that was. I'm not sure if you could hear that over my talking --
BLITZER: We did hear it.
COOPER: But --
BLITZER: We did hear it, Anderson.
COOPER: But the military is literally standing by. Wolf, this has been going on for 11 hours. If they had wanted to send in reinforcements to try to back up and prevent this and stop this between the two sides, they could have. There have been no reinforcements sent in that I can witness on the three exits and entrances to this -- this square that I can see right now. There have been no reinforcements sent in. There's only been, you know, probably no more than 100 or so troops in and around these armored personnel carriers at various points and the tanks that they have. Occasionally, they've been firing into the air. Occasionally, they've brought in some vehicles to try to block the protesters from each other. But it's been very little involvement, as far as we can see from this vantage point -- Wolf. BLITZER: I know, Anderson, you and your crew and other CNN journalists were roughed up early in -- earlier in the day. And you're OK and everyone is OK. But walk us through what happened, because a lot of our viewers have been e-mailing me and they're concerned.
COOPER: That was about 10 hours ago. We were walking toward the square, trying to report on both sides. We wanted to get reaction from both sides, the pro-Mubarak and the anti-Mubarak sides.
We were walk -- we had to walk through the pro-Mubarak area to try to get to kind of the no-man's land to talk to both sides, as is our job, in -- in our opinion.
But as we were going through the pro-Mubarak side, (INAUDIBLE) out of the crowd tried to grab our camera -- a camera belonging my cameraman, Neil -- Neil Hallsworth. And from there, as soon as he did that, it sort mobilized the crowd around us. And all of a sudden, we became the object of their interest and their -- and their anger.
They began to punch us, kick us. We immediately turned around as a group and -- and we started to walk very quickly back through the through the move -- the pro-Mubarak crowd, trying to get to a safe location. But -- but it was a several minute walk. And all the time, we had a mob of people following us, punching us, yelling at us, screaming at us, throwing bottles at us. Neil got punched in the head several times. His eye has -- has turned all red. Mary Ann Fox, my producer, was -- was mauled repeatedly by this crowd. I was punched numerous times on the -- in the head and the body.
It was, you know, it was a very chaotic situation. And -- and this is happening to reporters -- many reporters on the ground. And -- and -- and a lot of, you know, it is not -- anybody with a camera has been the target among the pro-Mubarak protesters on this day.
BLITZER: And that was 10 hours ago. And, fortunately, you guys are OK.
But what -- what -- we're looking at these live pictures now of these fires that are going on. And these were what you described. It looks like these cars are almost completely burned out right now.
How secure is this area?
Can you -- can you walk around, Anderson, right now?
Are you holed up in some sort of a safe -- safe place?
COOPER: It's absolutely not secure. I would not step foot outside the location where I'm in now, for -- for obvious safety reasons. But, you know, this entire area now -- if you're looking at those pictures of the flaming vehicles, all that area, the area to the right of the flaming vehicles, where you see that line of what looks like steel barriers, those are all the anti-Mubarak protesters who have moved all the way down there. On the other side of -- of the flaming vehicles, where you see maybe a highway overpass, that is the area where the pro-Mubarak protesters are in. But this entire area north of where those pro-Mubarak protesters, that is all pro-Mubarak territory at this point. And it's simply not safe to go down there. As much as I would like to -- to go down there and be reporting on the front line of this, it's not safe for anybody, any Western journalist with a camera to go down there right now.
BLITZER: And -- and we are seeing these live pictures, Anderson. I know you can't see what our viewers here in the United States and around the world are seeing, but we're seeing these live pictures. And we see that looks like a shield of protesters who are standing there.
What about the museum itself.
Has that emerged OK or -- because we know what kind of antiquities and artifacts are inside?
COOPER: Yes, the -- no, The Egyptian Museum has been guarded by the Egyptian military and, frankly, by anti-Mubarak protesters since the early days of -- of these demonstrations with a -- you know, there had been small amounts of looting inside the museum, some -- a mummy, I believe, was damaged and some other objects were knocked over.
But very quickly, Egyptian military moved into the museum, secured the museum. And all day, we have seen them on the roof of the museum and around the periphery of the museum. So the museum itself is secure.
There have been -- with all these Molotov cocktails thrown, some of them thrown right in front of the museum, those have been quickly put out.
But at this point, you know, I would say the -- the museum itself, it seems certainly secure. But there's -- with this -- this battle occurring between these two sides in front of, you know, the -- the storehouse of, you know, thousands of years of Egyptian history is just an extraordinary scene, Wolf. And now we're seeing even more Molotov cocktails. It's almost as if the -- the pro-Mubarak protesters are trying to regroup. And they are throwing Molotov cocktails very close to the --
COOPER: -- the -- at a barrier of -- of anti-Mubarak protesters.
BLITZER: Yes, we're seeing those Molotov cocktails thrown into this crowd. And you can see the fires, the explosions as a result. And just to be precise, Anderson, what -- what you're seeing and what you're -- what you're hearing is that the pro-Mubarak elements there, they're the ones throwing the Molotov cocktail -- cocktails against the anti-Mubarak demonstrators, is that right?
COOPER: Well, the ones you've just seen being thrown are definitely being thrown by pro-Mubarak protesters at the anti-Mubarak protesters. And -- and the first Molotov cocktail -- we've been watching this now for 11 hours. And I can I tell you, the first Molotov cocktails we saw being thrown were absolutely being thrown by pro-Mubarak protesters toward the anti-Mubarak protesters.
We have seen some Molotov cocktails thrown by anti-Mubarak protesters at -- at the pro-Mubarak protesters. But -- but -- but early on, the battle of the Molotov cocktails began, being thrown by -- by these pro-government protesters, who clear -- who were able to come to this -- this square, again, without being checked, without any -- any barrier and -- and being watched by the Egyptian military. And as the violence unfolded, the military did nothing to stop it.
BLITZER: It -- it looks like the --
BLITZER: What happened?
COOPER: OK. There's just -- no, it's fine. I mean the location I'm in is fine. But -- but there's just been a -- a loud -- it -- it sounded almost like a concuss -- a concussion grenade going off. I think it just -- it just echoes rather loud. Sorry we (INAUDIBLE) --
BLITZER: Yes, no, we just heard it, too. We heard that little explosion. I have no idea what it -- what it was, but we definitely heard it. There's -- you hear it first because you're on the scene. There's a few second delay before it goes on and is seen around the world here on CNN.
But we can clearly see the fires. We can see the Molotov cocktails coming in. It -- it's -- I want -- I want to bring Ivan back into this conversation, because he's got a little different perspective -- Anderson, hold, stay with us -- Ivan, what are you seeing right now?
WATSON: Well, Wolf, I'm probably three quarters of a mile from where Anderson is. I can see his building and then probably about 400 yards to the south of those burning barriers that you're seeing, where the Molotov cocktails are being thrown.
So I'm -- I'm in firmly opposition controlled territory, on the other side of the Egyptian Museum. And from this end, I see the demonstrators streaming around, moving back and forth. They're talking, periodically pulling wounded men back from the front line. They're being treated, as I mentioned before. There are medics stitching and bandaging people right on the sidewalk beneath the balcony where I'm standing right now, and we should be sending you a live feed from our vantage point.
You can see the Egyptian museum, the red brick building and the illuminated monument in front of it with a number of Egyptian army tanks that have been parked there not moving throughout the entire day's dramatic and entire bloody street battles, Wolf. And there are Egyptian soldiers there as well who have not done anything throughout all of the vicious fighting except put out some of the fires made by the Molotov cocktails.
Wow, we just saw tracer fire shoot overhead, Wolf. The Egyptian soldiers have not done anything throughout this except for put out some of the fires from the Molotov cocktails use in using hoses from within the grounds of the Egyptian museum.
Now there's a man speaking on a loudspeaker. He's giving political tirades, and he's also giving battlefield orders to the opposition demonstrators who are quite organized there, I have to say. And we've recently heard him say that anybody who deals with Israel is a traitor. He said we will not negotiate with Omar Suleiman, who is the recently appointed vice president to Mubarak's government. He said we will not negotiate with anyone. We will not retreat to the agents of the United States.
That's to give you a taste of what's going on on this side of the burning barricades -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ivan, stand by. Let's bring Anderson back in.
Are you hearing similar rhetoric where you are, Anderson?
COOPER: I'm sorry, Wolf. What was that?
BLITZER: Are you hearing a similar kind of like heated political rhetoric from the demonstrators going after not only Mubarak but the vice president, Omar Suleiman; anyone who deals with Israel will be targeted? This is what Ivan Watson was just reporting that he's hearing from the anti-Mubarak demonstrators, about three-quarters of a mile from where you are.
COOPER: You know, I'm not able to hear -- I'm not close enough vantage point to hear what is being said other than -- from any of the demonstrators at this point for security reasons. I can't hear, you know. I can hear when a roar goes up from the crowd.
I can tell you when I was down on the pro-Mubarak demonstrators earlier today, I mean, what I heard was chants about Mubarak. People saying Mubarak, yes. People with pictures of Mubarak, flag, you know, Egyptian flags, but I can't tell you specifically what at this point people are saying.
Though I can guarantee you that the pro-Mubarak crowd is greatly diminished here and earlier in the day there was a moment when it seemed like they were actually going to take over Liberation Square. That was certainly their objective. They pushed in very close. And I know Ivan was there witnessing that, saw them get very close. But then there was a countercharge by the anti-government demonstrators and it pushed them back.
And at this point looking at numbers of pro-Mubarak protesters left, there's no way at this point that they could push, at least from this entrance, the Egyptian museum entrance, push into the square any farther.
BLITZER: So what you're saying, Anderson, there's a lot more anti-Mubarak demonstrators still outside the museum than pro-Mubarak demonstrators, is that right? COOPER: In front of the museum, that's absolutely the case. I can't speak from what's happening -- I can see several other entrances to the square, but I can't see what's happening at the other entrances.
BLITZER: I've seen reports, Anderson, that the pro-Mubarak demonstrators have come pretty well organized, being bused in, but they seem to come with all sorts of weapons that they came with a mission. Is that -- is that what you've seen?
COOPER: My -- my belief is from a witness is that they came with a variety of weapons, with whatever they had, because we saw the Molotov cocktails being launched in the first round of that (INAUDIBLE) initially overwhelming from that side of the pro-Mubarak protesters.
When we were -- when the crew and I were being attacked by the crowd, there was a man there with a knife very close by as part of the crowd that was around us.
So clearly, there was nothing restricting them from bringing any weapons with them. Even though they passed by military checkpoints, they weren't being searched. From what I can see in the area that I was in, they weren't being stopped at all, whereas in previous days, any anti-Mubarak protestor or anyone entering the square was being searched if not by the military then by the anti-Mubarak themselves who were literally checking everybody's ID, at least they were yesterday and when that major demonstration occurred, checking IDs, literally patting you down. And there were multiple layers of pat- downs. They didn't want people bringing weapons into the square.
So I don't know what sort of weaponry they had, the anti-Mubarak protesters actually had with them in the square, if they did. I don't know if new ones arrived after this violence began bringing weapons with them or if they improvised weapons. We saw -- you know, I remember Ivan Watson earlier witnessing people in the square picking up paving stones being used to hurl at the opposite side.
I'm not sure how they were able to mobilize themselves, but they certainly at this point seem well organized. I mean, they literally formed this barrier with this metal sheeting in a very -- I mean, it's a very kind of ingenious way. It's almost like -- I don't know if you're familiar with roman history, but sort of a like a Roman phalanx using -- the way they would use their shields to advance in combat. It's almost what we're seeing now in front of the Egyptian museum.
BLITZER: You're watching the breaking news here on CNN.
More than 600 people have been injured, many of them very seriously. A lot of head injuries, makeshift clinics, doctors on the scene. Three people are now officially confirmed as having been killed in this chaos that erupted in Egypt today.
We're going to stay on top of this with Anderson and Ivan, all of our eyewitness reporters who are on the scene.
We'll take a quick break. Our breaking news coverage will continue right after this.
BLITZER: Live pictures coming out of Cairo. Those are Molotov cocktails that were thrown outside the Cairo museum, the Egypt -- Egyptian museum there where so many treasured artifacts and antiquities are housed.
These are demonstrations. The anti-Mubarak demonstrators facing pro-Mubarak demonstrators. It got very violent today. More than 600 people injured, many very seriously with head injuries. Three people now confirmed dead.
You're looking at these live pictures. You see those tanks in the background. The Egyptian military is in place there outside the museum at Tahrir Square, Liberation Square, but apparently not doing much, if anything. No uniformed police, we're told, by our Anderson Cooper, Ivan Watson. They're both holed up there right now. We're going to get back to them in a moment.
I just want to talk briefly with Mohamed Morsy, he's in Cairo, he's a spokesperson for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.
If you can hear me, Mr. Morsy, thank you very much.
Why aren't you satisfied, maybe you are, that the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak says he will not run for reelection in September? His son, Gamal, will not run for election. He wants an orderly transfer, a transition of power, if you will. Why isn't that good enough?
MOHAMED MORSY, MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD MEMBER (via telephone): Well, what's been said from the president is not acceptable from the people because if more than 5 million persons yesterday said that were clearly and loudly told that this regime has already failed according to the people (INAUDIBLE). So whatever is said after that is not accepted, it's rejected.
So what can we say now that (INAUDIBLE) period should start right now and Egyptian people are now all together saying the same thing, we need a new era, a new regime. We have a constitution, some articles in the (INAUDIBLE) things need to be changed. But we have a constitution, we can't have this through the -- in a transition period. This is the word of the Egyptian people.
BLITZER: So who do you want, Mr. Morsy to emerge? Let's say president Mubarak stepped down tomorrow. Who would you want, at least during an interim period until elections to be the leader, the leader of a caretaker government?
MORSY: According to the constitution, if the parliament is failing also, and this is the people, then the regime is failing, the president is failing, the parliament has already failed, the government has failed, then the head of the supreme court, Egyptian supreme court, will take the authority, and he will become the president for a transition period and he can form a government. He can also run the elections of the parliament. And then the parliament, according to the constitution, can make some changes in this constitution, then free elections of the new president can be done. This -- this transition period should start right now according to the people, which is above the (INAUDIBLE) itself.
BLITZER: Would you be satisfied, Mr. Morsy, with the vice president, Omar Suleiman, who became the vice president over the weekend? Would you be satisfied with allowing him to take charge until there were new elections?
MORSY: Well, as you know, according to constitution, the vice president is advised for the president. Then, if the president is not there, the vice president is no there. The constitution states clearly that the matter should belong after that to the head of the supreme court.
This regime has already failed. It's very clear to everybody in the world. What's being done today, torturing of the people in the streets, is a crime. It's a complete definite clear crime from Mubarak and his remaining traces of the regime against the people of Egypt who want justice, who want freedom and democracy all together.
Christians, Muslims, men and women, girls and boys, all want to said the word clearly and they continue to shout and say we need the new era to start right now for new elections, free elections in a free country and the new future should start now.
BLITZER: If there were free and fair elections in Egypt, 80 million people live in Egypt, Mr. Morsy, how many -- what percent do you think the Muslim Brotherhood would win in such elections?
MORSY: Well, as you know, the movement now is an Egyptian movement. It's not the Muslim Brotherhood movement. It's Egyptian movement. Muslims and Christians all together. The youth now is the main bloc of this movement. Muslim Brotherhood percentage now in the street does not exceed 10 percent.
Our history in the last maybe 30 years, since '87 up till now, our percentage in the parliament, our nominees, did not exceed sometimes 5 percent, 10 percent. The maximum we have already nominated last year was less than 25 percent of the total number of the seats. We have won 20 percent of the total number of seats. Then the (INAUDIBLE).
Now talking about the percentage elections, it's still too early. We need freedom first and then we will. According to the people, power and wealth, then we will pass to them and people will choose whoever they want. Probably they would choose anyone, but we're talking about a civic state, a real civic state.
BLITZER: I understand. All right, Mohammed Morsy is spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo.
Mr. Morsy, we'll stay in close touch with you. Thank you very much. MORSY: Thank you.
BLITZER: Here in Washington, the Obama administration is reiterating its message to the Egyptian government that the time for transition is now. Our foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty is joining us now. She's got new details on what the Obama administration is trying to do.
What are you learning, Jill?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, number one, Secretary Clinton talked with Mr. Suleiman, the vice president, in fact, this afternoon, delivering that message and talking about the violence, but also saying the transition has to begin now. That's the mantra over here.
And, you know, there's a real sense of urgency. Just a few minutes ago, in fact, we spoke with a senior administration official who said that there appears to be a sense in the Egyptian government that they can outlast the demonstrators. And what they are saying here at the State Department and throughout the administration is they can't, the demonstrators are not going away.
So what are they saying? That Mr. Mubarak has to do a lot more now. It can't be put on a back burner. And also, they are saying that the violence is proof that it's now time to do something.
BLITZER: All right, Jill.
Jill Dougherty is at the State Department for us watching this part of the story.
Let me go back to the streets of Cairo right now. Hala Gorani, our correspondent, is there.
Hala, I know you were directly threatened earlier in the day as well. But first of all, tell our viewers what you are seeing right now.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): I'm overlooking Tahrir Square, Wolf, and what I'm seeing is basically, if you were to draw a conclusion to the day, today, the anti-regime protesters have pretty much conquered the ground outside of the Egyptian Museum. They have set up a barricade. The pro-Mubarak agitators have been pushed out pretty much, and they are gathered on an overpass overlooking that side street.
They are throwing Molotov cocktails and fire bombs. They have set a substantially large fire right in front of the barricades behind which are amassed the anti-regime protesters. But we're not seeing clashes in the way we saw a few hours ago.
There's a military helicopter surveying the scene overhead. I'm still seeing some smoke coming out of some sections of the street where Molotov cocktails were thrown just a little bit earlier. So it's still very, very tense here in Cairo. It's calmed down just a little bit, and the number of pro-Mubarak supporters has dwindled -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Tell our viewers here, Hala, in the United States and around the world what happened to you and your crew earlier in the day, because it was a dramatic, very scary moment.
GORANI: At that point, when I decided to set out into the square, we hadn't seen clashes yet. So I sort of walked alongside the pro-Mubarak protesters, asked a few of them why they were there, what their placards read, and that kind of thing. And then the clashes started -- or, I should say, the pro-Mubarak supporters started throwing rocks, and then the other side responded.
At that point, there was a rush, a very surreal scene of camels and horses charging into the crowd. And at that point, a large crowd of pro-Mubarak protesters started charging and rushing in the opposite direction.
At that point, I was slammed against the gate that surrounds the Egyptian Museum and started receiving threats from the pro-Mubarak protesters, telling me to stop filming and telling me to get out. And I started feeling a little bit threatened.
And one of the pro-Mubarak protesters protected me, took me by the shoulder, led me out, and told the protesters who were threatening me, "She's with me. She's with me."
I consider that it was a close call, but my biggest fear, as you know, Wolf, when you're surrounded by hundreds of people running in one direction, my biggest fear was being trampled at that point. And I ran as fast as I could and got out of there.
BLITZER: Are you in a safe area, Hala, right now?
GORANI: Yes. Right now we are. We are in a safe area.
We're overlooking the square. We're able to survey the scene. We're able to sort of also -- and what's good about this is that we're able to figure out what the mass movements are, if you will, from being able to -- from our sort of bird's eye view vantage point. And clearly, at the end of this day, the anti-regime protesters have conquered that crucial side street where most of these battles took place earlier -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's now 12:34, a.m. in Cairo, getting close to 1:00 a.m. Is there any indication what is about to happen tomorrow? Is it going to be more of this? Is there any way of assessing what we're looking for?
GORANI: It's very difficult to say, but, you know, the military is not intervening in any kind of determined, deliberate way. When Molotov cocktails were thrown earlier, we saw water cannons being used to put out some of the flames. But really, they are on the sidelines.
So if these pro-Mubarak agitators/protesters decide to show up again tomorrow, or if some of them spend the night here and the battles start again, there's real no telling how bad it can get, because the level of anger is very, very high on the side of the pro- Mubarak protesters. They came here, many of them, Wolf, frankly, itching for conflict. I mean, you could see it.
You could see that they were out to get into a fight today, and many of them got that. The latest toll, in fact -- this is from state television, so it could be much higher -- is three dead today and more than 600 wounded.
BLITZER: Yes. Those are the numbers we have as well.
All right, Hala, we're going to stay in close touch with you. Be careful over there.
We're going to check back with Anderson and Ivan and Ben Wedeman, all of our reporters, Nic Robertson. So we're not going to go very, very far away. We're going to take a quick break, continue the breaking news coverage out of Egypt, right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WATSON: People on horseback are charging in. Oh, my God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You can see what happened earlier in the day. They came in on horses, also on camels.
These are demonstrators in favor of President Hosni Mubarak. They came in. Some of the individuals were taken off those horses by anti-Mubarak demonstrators, and you can see what follows.
Let's just watch for a moment.
All right. You get a sense of the drama, the violence that occurred today.
Let's discuss what this means right now. Our senior political analyst, former presidential adviser, David Gergen, is joining us. And our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, is joining us as well.
These pictures are so dramatic, Gloria, right now. I think it's fair to say for the Obama administration, this is a dramatic change from yesterday.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
BLITZER: A game-changer, if you will, in terms of what the U.S. strategy, policy has to be.
BORGER: Well, I think, obviously, you see the pro-Mubarak forces fighting back. And I think the big question that's being asked in Washington, as well as in Egypt, is just what has the military decided to do, Wolf? Early on in this conflict, the passivity of the military standing back while you had the anti-Mubarak demonstrators gave those demonstrators some reassurance that the military was letting them do what they wanted to do, keeping the peace. Today, as Anderson Cooper was talking about, the military also seemed to be standing by while people brought arms, grenades, horses, whatever, to the square, to the demonstration. And that gives a lot of people pause to ask the question, OK, what has the military decided?
We know what the military is going to do what's good for the military. Have they now decided that there's less of a distance between themselves and Mubarak since he said he would leave in September? We don't know the answer to that.
BLITZER: David, listen to Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, today, saying essentially what the president said last night, although with a much more urgent tone. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The time for a transition has come, and that time is now. The Egyptian people need to see change. We know that that meaningful transition must include opposition voices and parties being involved in this process as we move toward free and fair elections. But that process must begin now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. That was the mantra -- now, now, now. Not tomorrow, but now.
Is the administration -- I guess everybody -- everybody recognizes how sensitive this moment is right now, but is the administration doing the right thing?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think putting the pressure on now is right, Wolf. I want to say up front that I was wrong last night about the president's statement.
Instead of alienating the protesters, they actually seem to be buoyed by it. But Mubarak, in turn, clearly felt it was another slap in the face. And he has now, you know, sent his thugs out there.
I think what the administration now needs to do, if I may say so, is to try to build an international coalition, to put enormous pressure not only on Mubarak, but on the army.
First of all, call off the Mubarak thugs and stop the violence. Secondly, allow the protesters to go back out there. The army was saying today -- asking the protesters to go home, to call all this off and let this be a peaceful transition. The protesters need to be allowed to be on the streets. They need to have freedom of expression.
And thirdly, to put enormous pressure on the army and Mubarak to understand that Western aid -- which we give them $4 (ph) billion a year, is not coming unless they speed up this transition and they start talking to the opposition, bring them in, and make this a very rapid transition. September is way too late under these circumstances, but I think the president needs an international coalition now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I want both of you to stand by with me, because we're going to continue to assess what's going on. But there are dramatic developments happening in Cairo right now.
These are live pictures you're seeing. It's approaching 1:00 a.m. now in Cairo. Molotov cocktails being hurled. We've heard shots. We've heard explosions.
We're going to check back with Anderson Cooper, with Ivan Watson, Hala Gorani, all of our reporters.
Stand by. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: All right. You're looking at these live pictures right now.
It's 12:46 a.m. in Cairo. Crowds are still there. Anti-Mubarak demonstrators facing off against pro-Mubarak demonstrators.
But right now, outside the Cairo Museum, the anti-Mubarak demonstrators seem to have the upper hand. But Molotov cocktails have been hurled. There have been gunshots.
More than 600 people have been injured, many of them with serious head injuries. Three people are confirmed dead.
Arwa Damon is joining us now.
Arwa, I understand you were just at one of the major hospitals in Cairo. Tell our viewers here in the United States and around the world what you saw.
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
And this specific hospital was only around a 10-minute drive from the demonstration site. And just to set the scene a bit, getting there, the streets were eerily empty. Pretty much the only vehicles we saw were ambulances themselves.
Once we got to the hospital itself, ambulances were really rolling up nonstop, around one every few minutes. The situation even there was incredibly tense.
We saw a number of walking wounded, most of them with bandages on their head. People also being rapidly whisked around on stretchers.
There was a large crowd out front, too. They were dressed in civilian clothing. The one doctor we managed to speak to though, who would not speak in an official capacity, said that there were what he was calling government agents among them, and that's why he wasn't comfortable talking to us too long.
He said they were under orders not to speak to the media. And, in his words, he said "they," the pro-government individuals, don't want this, the wounded, to be seen.
He was explaining the difficulties and trying to get medical care into that demonstration site, saying that to get medics in, they had to hide in the ambulances. For some reason, the blockades around the demonstration sites were only allowing ambulances in with a driver, so they had to hide additional people there just to get help to the site.
Now, this specific hospital he said had treated around 100 to 120 wounded. Most were wounds to the head, burns as well because of those Molotov cocktails. Some stab wounds, too.
Now, we only managed to speak to two men who were wounded. They both had sustained head wounds from rocks, they said, and they were going to head right back to the square, to keep it up. They were saying they were not going to give up. These two men were specifically anti-Mubarak demonstrators.
We weren't able to stay for too long. The civilian crowd I was mentioning out front quickly became agitated. They were mostly instigated by a few individuals there that the doctor had previously pointed out to us as being these so-called government or pro-Mubarak agents. They began screaming "No to the media!" shouting profanities, but it's just an indication of how tense even at a hospital the situation here is -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Arwa, you've spent a lot of time in the Middle East, and most of our viewers know you've covered the war in Iraq for years and years. You speak Arabic.
Did you ever imagine, did you ever think you'd be assigned to cover a story in Cairo and see what you're seeing right now?
DAMON: No, Wolf, absolutely not. And I don't think the story has just taken me by surprise. Every single Egyptian that I've been talking to, whether they are pro or anti, is stunned and shocked at what is happening here in the heart of Cairo. This has turned into a capital that few Egyptians, anyone who has been here, can hardly even recognize.
A few nights ago we were driving around and coming across a number of these civilian checkpoints and roads that were blocked off with garbage cans, with sticks, branches, trunks of trees being put across them. I remember thinking to myself, this looks exactly like Baghdad when the sectarian violence was breaking out and people were just taking security of their own neighborhoods, into their own hands, trying to block road bombs.
Most Egyptians who we're talking to are saying, we can't believe that our country has turned into something of a pseudo war zone, even though it is only confined to this one particular square, Tahrir Square. The impact of it is really being felt everywhere. Now, Wolf, earlier today I was at, actually, ironically, at a sports club, an elite sports club, speaking to a number of wealthier Egyptians who were there. And some of them were supporting what was happening. Some of them said that the demonstrators should accept the concessions that Mubarak has made.
But in particular, what one woman said to me really struck out. She was in her 40s. She had a 19-year-old son.
And she said, "This is our fault. This is my generation's fault, because we didn't speak out when we should have. And now I look at our youth and what they're doing, and what they're having to go through to bring about this change, and this was actually my generation's responsibility. We failed them."
Wolf, that's what she said.
BLITZER: Arwa Damon reporting from -- an eyewitness reporting from the hospital on the scene in Cairo. More than 600 demonstrators have already been injured, three confirmed dead.
Arwa, thank you. We're going to stay in close touch with you.
Those flashes you've seen in the middle of your screen, those are Molotov cocktails being thrown into this crowd. We're staying on top of this story. We're not leaving.
We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: All right. We're following the breaking news. These are live pictures coming to us from Cairo.
Those fires, you see the cars that are on fire. Molotov cocktails have been hurled. We're told they've been hurled by pro- Mubarak demonstrators who have come there fairly well organized with Molotov cocktails and other weapons. There goes one right in the middle of the screen.
You can see the demonstrators on the other side of those barricades. This is a very, very tense situation.
No doubt, the social media are playing a key role in this unrest sweeping Egypt and other nations in the region right now.
Lisa Sylvester is here.
Lisa, these protesters, they're getting a lot of their information, they're communicating with the social media.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf.
You know, we first saw it with Tunisia, then Egypt. Now, maybe possibly even Syria. Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are being used by protesters to report on what's going on in their countries and also to organize demonstrations.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, they all have groups now calling for a revolution in Syria, Yemen and Algeria. One Facebook page is declaring a "Day of Rage" in Damascus and around the world this Friday. According to the site, they want to end the state of emergency in Syria and to end corruption.
(on camera): Do you think we're going to see a domino effect here? Do you think there will be more changes coming?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Changes will take place, but in each country it will depend upon the context within which they developed historically.
In Egypt, people have access to Internet. They had access to Facebook, cell phone technology. It was closed down by the government during the uprisings of the past week, but over time they've been using it.
In Syria, it's far more restricted. It's far more difficult for people to get access to this technology.
SYLVESTER: Almost overnight, long, simmering discontent has exploded into violent clashes.
JOHN NEGROPONTE, FMR. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: The social media have an accelerating impact on these events. So in terms of the speed with which things happen, like the fact that here we are only 10 days after this whole thing began, and already Mr. Mubarak has announced that he's not going to run again, so I think it has an accelerating impact.
SYLVESTER: Even without access to computers, protesters may find a global voice through the Internet. After Egypt shut down the Internet this week, "Speak to Tweet," a service offered by Google and Twitter, allowed people to phone an outside line and record their tweets.
JACK DORSEY, CHAIRMAN & CEO, TWITTER: To have events like what's happening in Egypt or Tunisia or Iran happen every single day, it's just amazing. And the greatest thing about it is that it's a true utility. It's true foundational technology, where people can come to it and they can really make it whatever they wish.
SYLVESTER: Now, Facebook and Twitter are officially banned in Syria, unlike in Egypt. And that's going to make it more difficult for protesters there to get their word out.
The Syrian organizers who are calling for protests this weekend, they are, in fact, most likely from outside of the country. They are calling on people to also protest at the Syrian embassies in Europe and around the world.
BLITZER: This is spreading. This is obviously spreading big time.
SYLVESTER: It has the possibility to spread, Wolf.
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester, thanks very much.